DAYTON — Attorneys for two Beavercreek police officers involved in the John Crawford III family civil lawsuit are asking to renew a delay in proceedings.
At the end of 2015, a federal magistrate judge granted a stay in lawsuit depositions for officer Sean Williams and Sgt. David Darkow for a limited period of time, which expired March 30.
Attorneys for the two officers most closely connected with Crawford’s fatal shooting Aug. 5, 2014, maintain that allowing the two to be deposed for the civil lawsuit would conflict with their rights related to an ongoing federal investigation into the incident.
“Because the federal criminal investigation remains ongoing, defendants are faced with the impossible and conflicting decision to invoke their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and forgo the opportunity to defend themselves in this civil case or waive their privilege and potentially face criminal charges based upon their own testimony in this case,” a document filed by the officers’ legal counsel stated in the initial request for the delay.
Crawford was shot and killed by Williams in the Beavercreek Wal-Mart Aug. 5, 2014, with Darkow standing nearby. Officers were brought to the store after a 911 caller alerted police to a man waving a rifle at store customers. Police say Crawford was shot after he didn’t respond to their commands to put down the rifle, which was later discovered to be a BB gun he picked up off a store shelf.
Attorneys for the officers filed a request to renew the stay of deposition March 30, which Crawford family attorneys opposed in a response filed April 1.
Attorneys for the Crawford family have argued against the stay, noting that the officers had previously made other statements in relation to Crawford’s death. Crawford attorneys have also noted that the two officers are “key” to the case and that “substantial delay can lead to the loss of evidence and documents as well as faded memories that can frustrate plaintiff’s ability to meet their burden of proof.”
When he first ruled allowing the stay Dec. 31, 2015, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Newman noted that the case’s Aug. 31, 2016, discovery deadline was approximately nine months away and wrote that “such a short, limited stay does not significantly impede upon plaintiffs’ interests in expeditiously prosecuting the case.”
The initial request to delay case discovery proceedings came in relation to an ongoing investigation into Crawford’s death being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
While a Greene County grand jury considered the case in September 2014 and declined to return an indictment against the officers involved in the shooting, the two could still potentially face federal charges if the DOJ investigation determined any federal laws had been broken. A federal investigation into the shooting has been ongoing since September 2014.
According to court documents, Vincent Popp, the attorney who is representing Williams and Darkow in relation to the criminal investigations, contacted the DOJ inquiring about the status of the federal probe March 28. The next day, Popp reportedly received the following reply: “We certainly understand your desire to know where we stand with the federal investigation, but would be remiss if we were to provide you with a time frame for its conclusion,” a DOJ attorney wrote. “We can only advise you that the matter is still open.”
The civil lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Dayton, listed 17 counts against the defendants, ranging from assault and battery against the officers directly involved in the shooting, to negligent training and supervision against Beavercreek Police Chief Dennis Evers and the City of Beavercreek, to negligence against Wal-Mart, as well as other charges.
In the lawsuit documents, the family asked for a jury trial and compensatory damages in excess of $75,000.
The case is currently set to go to trial Feb. 13, 2017.
Reach Nathan Pilling at 937-502-4498 or on Twitter @XDGNatePilling.